Seagrass nurseries contribute to coral reef fish populations

Verweij, Marieke C., Ivan Nagelkerken, Ingmar Hans, Susanne M. Ruseler, Paul R. D. Mason

Limnol. Oceanogr., 53(4), 2008, 1540-1547 | DOI: 10.4319/lo.2008.53.4.1540

ABSTRACT: We here provide strong evidence that seagrass beds act as nurseries providing fish to adult populations of a coral reef fish. We studied this habitat connectivity by tracing life history movements of the Caribbean reef fish Ocyurus chrysurus (yellowtail snapper). Carbon- and nitrogen-stable isotope variations in muscle tissue and otoliths (ear bones) record former food sources and show that 98% of the O. chrysurus reef population has likely passed through seagrass nurseries as juveniles during their first 2 yr of life. Our findings indicate a significant degree of habitat connectivity and stress; in order to conserve healthy reefs and sustainable fisheries of O. chrysurus, marine protected areas and fisheries reserves that traditionally focus on protecting only the coral reef habitat should be expanded to include seagrass nurseries.

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